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Bill Would Offer Free Tattoo Removal To Former Prostitutes

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - Prostitutes with tattoos may soon get them removed for free, with taxpayers picking up the bill.

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Canada-Flintridge) is pushing a proposal he says will help former prostitutes become productive members of society.

"This is a sensible, good, humane thing to do," he said. "Let's help you get a new lease on life, start fresh."

Even after prostitutes break free from their pimps, their pasts can come back to haunt them. Many are "branded" almost as property -- with tattoos bearing their pimp's name or colors.

"We've talked to a young woman who's constantly asked 'What's that name on her neck?' It was her pimp who branded her as a teenager," Portantino said. "She's got to carry that around the rest of her life."

Portantino's bill would allow former working girls to have those tattoos removed for free. It would be an expansion of an already-existing federally funded program offering the same benefit to reformed gang members. Portantino says former prostitutes should qualify, too.

Not all taxpayers are sold on the idea.

"I'm not asking anyone to pay for the removal of my tattoos," one said. "But prostitute tattoos? Is that supposed to be special?"

But others call it a great idea, a way to offer women recovering from a life on the streets a chance to turn things around. The tattoo removal can offer a literal clean slate.

"Makes me so sad to think it happens to people when they're really young, and how do you escape that?" Sarah Rubin said.

Assemblyman Portantino says he's gotten bipartisan support on his bill. It still needs to pass a final Senate vote and be signed into law by Gov. Brown.

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